Exclusive: The feedback facility on the NHS Choices website which allows patients to anonymously rate and comment on GP practices is failing to provide a representative view of services and should be scrapped, a GPC negotiator has told Pulse.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that almost two years after the BMA reluctantly backed the launch of the NHS Choices online patient feedback service, the website was failing to provide a balanced opinion of many surgeries, and comments left on the site were frequently ‘very partial, negative and unrepresentative’.
It comes as figures obtained by Pulse reveal that almost 10% of comments left on the site are queried by GPs, while nearly 2,000 more have been rejected by moderators.
Since the service started in late 2009, 23,883 people have left comments on GP practices. Some 1,786 were rejected for a variety of reasons, including prevention of libel and abusive language, while a further 2,238 have been queried by GPs or practice staff using the reporting link.
Last week Pulse revealed that a staff member at a GP practice in west London had been sacked after posting angry responses to patients on NHS Choices, deriding the site as a ‘flawed concept’.
GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul told Pulse: ‘Whilst 10% of comments are challenged there must be a far higher percentage where GPs simply have not got round to challenging what are often very partial, negative and unrepresentative views. The NHS Choices patient feedback service cannot be considered a valid representative view on a practice, as it is a narrow view by people willing and able to post, and often with an axe to grind.’
‘The National GP Patient Survey at least attempts a representative sample and is therefore a better way of assessing practices.’
‘It would be better if it was not there and I think it should be scrapped.’
The NHS Choices service is the outlet favoured by NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh to make public details of GP clinical outcomes, prescribing and staff satisfaction and Dr Naagpaul said he would be using the negotiations on expanding the scope of the service in this way to try and get the patient feedback element removed.
A Department of Health spokesperson said the fact that one in ten comments was queried by GPs was often a sign of positive engagement with patients.
‘Most GP practices that get in touch do not ask for feedback to be removed, but are more interested in finding out how they can respond personally to a patient or want to let NHS Choices know if they are having difficulty responding to a patient,’ the spokesperson said.
‘Comments are removed most often because they have been posted regarding the wrong practice or because the patient used a service at a practice premises which is not provided by the practice itself.
‘Giving patients a stronger voice is key to our plans for delivering more responsive care in a modernised NHS. Thousands of patients have left feedback on hospitals, GPs and other NHS organisations on the NHS Choices website. There is strong evidence this has led to improving services and relationships between patients and staff. All comments on the site are independently moderated against strict criteria.’
Dr Sonia Deveraux, a GP in Newburgh, Fife, told Pulse: ‘I certainly agree with the BMA that these posts are unhelpful and should not be on the NHS Choices website. Out of context they can be demoralising, destructive and not a true reflection of service provided.’